1942 Joint StrikeESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – Backbone Entertainment
Publisher - Capcom
1 – 3 players (Offline/Online)
HDTV Output: 720- 1080p
One of my favourite arcade games of past is 1942. This shooter used a very a simple control scheme combined with highly addictive vertical scrolling action. 1942, and its many off shoot games, were all the rage of arcades long before Capcom’s Street Fighter series took the world by storm. Developer Backbone Entertainment has brought the grizzled game to the Xbox 360 via Xbox LIVE Arcade (XBLA). The game has been re-worked in high definition with brand new planes, levels, and enemies. Being very keen on the original title I was eager to dive in and see how this title has been revamped.
I must say that 1942 Joint Strike is one of the best-looking XBLA titles out there. The game bares just a familiar resemblance to the old arcade classic. Gone are the poppy, flickering planes, the very limited colour pallet, as well as the repetitious ground or water terrain. The new game is re-done in complete high definition filling the screen in 16x9 720p goodness. I found the textures throughout the game to be just right. They were not over done but still had a bit of the retro flair. Some levels are downright beautiful. For example, I’m a fan of level 2 where you fly over a huge city with some massive buildings reaching for the sky and on the ground are tanks in various states of disrepair. Amongst the wreckage are other tanks that are coming to attack you as you fly by. This level was very impressive to say the least!
The machines of war have also been totally re-done. During my time with the game I saw many new enemy planes along with tons of ground tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and huge bosses at the end of each level. The game moves at a fairly consistent frame rate for most of your battles, although it does tend to slow down now and then with a lot of enemies on screen at once, especially online. That being said the drop in framerate is so gradual you won’t notice it much until the screen clears and the game speeds up again. The team at Backbone have really done the game justice, well done!
If there is weak spot in 1942 Joint Strike’s armor I would have to say that it is in the sound. The game’s sound effects and music are more than adequate, but I found them to be fairly repetitious and somewhat bland. On the fidelity front I really didn’t think that the surround aspect of the title was utilized enough. I had hoped for more action out of my rear speakers which would allow for a more enveloping experience. With countless enemies and firefights ongoing the separation was not what I expected. Now I fully understand that this game pays homage to an old classic, and this would allow for the sounds to fit right in with the game, but the visuals have been improved and boosted to the next level so why not go the whole way for the audio too? The music is almost identical to the old title with some minor variation, but there are really only two to four tracks in the entire game. While it still does the job, it was somewhat boring to listen to.
1942 Joint Strike’s gameplay style hasn’t changed a bit since the original’s inception in the arcades many years ago. The basic premise is to kill all on coming enemies, be it by plane or tank, and survive the countless waves to the end. The planes are pretty much the same, as is some of the ground fire, but as mentioned earlier on the levels have all been redone. I found that there were a few spots along the way that looked a bit familiar, but overall it does feel like a new game. You will start out with a choice of 3 planes, all of which have their own attributes. I quite liked the Mosquito; the plane had the best all round features for my liking. Not that there was anything wrong with the other planes though. I found the Shinden to be far too skittery and fast, while the other one was too slow, but it did have the best defence. Experiment and you’ll find the one you like quite quickly.
Weapons in the game are very easy to use. The A button is for firing, and can also be held down for a charged weapon fire. The only draw back here is the omission of a rapid fire. This really comes into play a couple of levels in, when your thumb is ready to fall off. I tended to take a break at each cut scene or load time by trying to stretch out my arm and hand to get the blood flowing again. Casual gamers will probably hate this, but in the end you have to as yourself is it really a shortcoming. I can remember the arcade being somewhat similar in style, so this transition to the home console is pretty good, right down to the hitting of the fire button. As for the rest of the controls, the Y button unleashes your screen-clearing bomb, with your plane doing the familiar loop as it drops its’ payload. The B button is used with online; it launches a joint strike and can be very useful in clearing everything in its path. You’ll have to coordinate its use with your other player(s) (up to 3 can play online) as timing the strike can yield great results. One of my favorites is using the lightning beam across the screen, zapping enemies like a bug zapper as fly into it.
The game itself is quite challenging. You can choose from four different levels of difficulty, from pretty easy to extremely hard. In some cases I felt the difficulty seemed to remain the same across all four modes, the only difference being more enemies to fight and fewer planes for you to rely on when dying. 1942 Joint Strike also has no continues making this game even more frustrating, as once your planes are depleted you must start right from the beginning of the game again. For me this was somewhat annoying but in a sick and twisted way I loved the challenge, and since the gameplay is pretty addictive I did find I was playing over and over for hours on end on the higher difficulty ratings. My only complaint is that the ride is over to soon. I can get through the game on a moderate difficulty level in about 40 minutes or so. I really did not want the game to end, and felt a bit short changed as it was over so soon.
There is an online mode and it is surprisingly well implemented. After choosing your plane and one Joint Strike special, you’re off. The gameplay is definitely a little faster and a little more furious, and if you’re not playing with a friend who knows your gaming style you may get into a bit of a hassle on who picks up various power ups and health along the way. Teaming up and using the Joint Strike weapons is cool and adds a little more strategy to the action. I was glad to see the lag issue was a non-issue. I played quite a few games with very little in the way of lag hiccups and connection problems. I did notice however, the game’s framerate tended to chug a bit more online, but it didn’t affect the fun factor one bit.
The arcade classic 1942 has been reborn into this current generation of HD gaming. For the fans of the beloved series I would absolutely recommend playing 1942 Joint Strike. The game is beautiful to watch with all new levels and enemies in high definition. While I liked the game right off the hop, casual gamers out there may balk at the difficulty level. It’s definitely a tough game, but here’s where the challenge lies, perseverance will pay off in the end. Overall 1942 Joint Strike is well worth the 800 MS points, and I must give kudos to the dev team and Capcom who are continuing to prove they have the right stuff by brining great titles to the XBLA experience.